Our dear friends, Franklin and Rebecca Mocket, who together create as Samana, have just been back out on tour, in part to promote their album, All One Breath, and incredible new single, Two Wrongs. Inspired by the American subculture of freight train riders – the folks who inspired Jack Kerouac and the original “Beats” – the pair’s latest release is a paean to those who, in their own words, “search for freedom” “outside the perimeters of societal convention”. While Samana’s intimate songs already painted deep, rich landscapes, the addition of strings, has now blown the duo’s music wide open. The sound epic, panoramic, truly breathtaking. Watch the video below, and just wait until the track hits its second half…
All Polaroids taken by Rebecca & Franklin, while on tour.
How did you get on with renovating the Welsh cottage? Is it finished? Are you experts, now, in lime plastering?
After three years, and what can only be described as a distinctive journey of hard graft, patience, learning, and reward, we have come to the conclusion of such a voyage in renovating the old cottage, and building our studio. It was a project we undertook with nothing but eagerness and a willingness to learn. With the accompaniment of many books, and the support / encouragement of each other, our efforts in building a place to house our creations have prevailed. The process has been an incredibly insightful one, in coming to understand heritage building techniques, and the paramount importance of a building`s integrity if it is not maintained correctly. Over the years, an awful lot of knowledge has been lost and ignored, which is proving to be incredibly problematic for thousands of buildings in the UK, which have been modernised in a way which is unsympathetic to the history of their construction, and the respiratory nature of an older stone house. For us, understanding the severity of an “unbreathable” house that itself has no foundations was a challenging problem to overcome, but the solution lay in one of the building blocks of construction over the millennia, lime; a magical material which acts as a mortar for stonework, providing the flexibility and “breathability” necessary to allow the house to behave as the organism it is. As with many of the processes we learnt in building the house and indeed, the studio, we have come to understand the transferability of such skills in every day life. Undoubtedly, they have found their way into the music in one form or another, but the foundations of the music feel stronger for it.
Is the studio up and running? Have you had any other artists use the studio yet?
Yes, the studio is officially up and running! We designed the entire studio around the golden ratio, building it to spec, paying significant attention to specific frequencies. We have had other friends grace the space, from classical experimental soundscape quartets, to esoteric sound healers – every single one has been truly beautiful and memorable experience.
Guy Garvey was championing Samana, on BBC 6, last time we spoke. Have you managed to pick up any more of the national airplay that you justly deserve?
Guy Garvey has been an unwavering champion of our music, which is deeply appreciated. He recently played our latest song, Two Wrongs, on BBC 6 Music and said some wonderful words:
“Now one of my favourite artists, and I am honoured to say that this is the first play, anywhere, of the new single from Samana. This is something incredibly special! The continuously and increasingly, artistically, truly free Samana. I think Rebecca’s my favourite singer at the moment.”
Presenters from BBC Wales have also been playing the songs, along with some more independent radio stations from Europe. The journey is forever growing, the momentum building!
I that know I’ve said this several times before, but being on the road, and taking in new landscapes, new wide open spaces, seem central to what Samana do. Where have your travels taken you so far this year?
It is indeed. Absorbing the inspiration of landscapes and the encounters that occur within them is monumentally informative and inspiring. This year we`ve devoted our time mainly to exploring our local area. Where we are living in West Wales has a very strong ancestral connection to the druids, in fact only the other day did I encounter a travelling Druid upon the ancient stone landscape of ‘the angels face’, where he was spending the night to dream. The landscapes here are alive with ancient woodland, cairns, stone circles and pre-historic monuments.
Where were the songs on the new album written and recorded?
The songs on All One Breath were all written and recorded during the period of lockdown, both in Wales and in the region of the midi-Pryineed in Southern France – surrounded by nothing but oak trees and expansive undulations of rippling valleys.
I read in a recent interview that during the pandemic you wrote 60 songs. How did you manage to whittle those down to one album? Does this mean that a second, third, fourth….album will soon be on the way?
Yes, we did record a vast body of work. Undertaking the build almost entirely ourselves, it was such an all-consuming project that required every inch of our energy and dedication. We would pick up our instruments by the fire in the evening and sink into a musical consciousness together, but in order to transcend entirely into the process of creation we needed to have a geographical shift, as there was still so much required of us in Wales. So when we arrived in France, and a three-week residency turned into three months due to the pandemic, we transcended into a plain of subconscious flow, excavating the plains of creative consciousness. The songs on All One Breath were actually never meant to be released collectively as an album, initially we had selected them as B-sides. The other songs will find their place in the world, and we will be excited to share them when the time is right. We`re currently in the process of writing our third album in our studio, which has turned out to be a completely new collection of songs again, but is testament to the nomadic nature of our creations, as we travel the road of life.
The interview also describes your songs as being “as if written by the last people on Earth” – which I think is great. There is something about your songs that conveys your incredible bond. The sound of soulmates, impacted by nature, but walled off from the modern world outside. Not so much folk, as a deep roots music. Its intimacy is a big part of its power.
Entirely; I connect very much to your words here. The sinewy of our love is the principle foundation of Samana. It is like the mycorrhizal network of ancient forests, or the telepathy inside of dream-work. Creating together, pushes our experience of life, consciousness and inter-connectivity. We dissolve into a state of telepathy, that only strengthens and expands during these intense periods of conception, creation and performance. We take so much direct transferral of energy from nature. The very word ‘Samana’ is an ancient Sanskrit term which means to live in tune with the ways of nature.
I know that you were just about to embark on a fresh tour. Where did you visit, and were these places that you’d visited before?
We`ve just undergone a two week tour around the UK performing in both cities that we have played in before, and rural areas of the country that we have not performed in. It was truly beautiful experience to have had such incredibly attentive and emotionally connected audiences. It was a transcendental experience for us, and to have shared it with our whole band including our string players was a true joy.
Can you tell me anything about your band members? Where you found them?
The band is a collection of very talented musicians and creators; friends both old and new. We’ve also had the accompaniment of additional strings at selected shows. We`ve been recording and playing with these string-players for a couple of years. We very recently recorded our new song, Two Wrongs, with them. They are phenomenally gifted musicians and it`s always an honour to share the stage with them all. Our drummer also plays tenor trumpet, which has been another incredible addition to both the recordings and live performance.
Were any of these “augmented” Samana shows be recorded for future release?
Unfortunately not this time. We have recorded a couple of live sessions in our studio, which we recorded in-between shows, which we’ll release in due course. We do have the intention of recording a live performance with the accompaniment of all the strings early next year.
Are there any plans to go into the studio with the band, and with the orchestra?
Indeed there are! We are currently writing at the moment, with a lot of attention being payed to the expansive orchestral elements of the material. We also have the intention to record a Welsh choir. There are many conceptual ideas for the new work that we are very excited to expand upon.
Wow! Are there any plans to do more with your poems, paintings, and photography?
Yes there are many plans, always. I wish to combine them all for an immersive, transcending experience when the opportunity arises. I`m fascinated with the depths in which you can immerse someone, creating layer upon layer for people to sink further and further into their subconscious until you reach a plain of collective consciousness. My darkroom is up and running here in Wales, so for the time being I will step back into the darkroom and begin a project combining prints with poetry.
I was also wondering if anyone`s ever contacted you and Franklin about using your songs in TV or film, since they have such a strong cinematic, storytelling quality?
Funnily enough we`re currently in a conversation with a bespoke company about exactly this – so who knows, maybe in the next year or two it will find its way into the world of films. It`s always been a dream of ours to make music for independent films. Also, the instrumental music Franklin makes on his own is so intensely transportive – it would be a crime not to find its way into cinema. We have started making some of our own short films – obscure, art-house films, shot on 8mm film, interlaced with poetry and music. The first explores the concept of the subconscious and the relationship between madness and an abandoned /starved subconscious. They will be released over the coming year.
Samana`s latest album, All One Breath, and stunning, soaring new single, Two Wrongs, can purchased directly from Bandcamp. The single’s artwork features a photograph by Mike Brodie, who spent four years riding freight trains, capturing both an alternative way of life, and the vast and varied American landscape.